Monday, April 14, 2008

City Done Right

I spend most of my time planning my temporary escapes from urban life. Living in a city is very stressful. I find very little within the urban landscapes to please me, and much that creates problems for me, personally. And so I'm almost always doing my best to make time to haul my travel trailer to a beautiful location, or getting my backpack provisioned so that I can go off into a National Park or wilderness area.

So it was a big surprise when I discovered that I actually like the downtown area of Greenville, South Carolina. While the streets are still geared for autos, it's relatively friendly to pedestrians with wide sidewalks and lots of shops and restaurants, and plenty of parking.

But the nicest aspect of downtown Greenville, to me, is Falls Park. This park was created when someone realized that Greenville had basically destroyed one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Southern Piedmont by covering it with a bridge so that it was all but invisible. Guidebooks for waterfalls would list the sad instructions for viewing these falls--instructions which included having to find a place to stash your car while you scramble down an overgrown embankment for a chance to see this amazing waterfall.

The City of Greenville made things right, though. They removed the old bridge and landscaped the area around, above, and below the Reedy River Falls. An enormous and architecturally unique pedestrian bridge was built across the river that affords wonderful elevated views. Parking lots and parking decks were strategically located to allow automobiles comfortable access for people arriving at the park. Modern hotels, condominiums, restaurants, and shops were constructed around the banks of the river to give people more to do on their way to enjoying the natural beauty of the Falls Park.

It's hard to imagine the beauty and functionality of this downtown park without experiencing it. And the beauty of the place must be seen. If you're ever in this part of South Carolina you will do yourself a favor by at least visiting Greenville and its amazing Falls Park.

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